Negotiators Views on the News: Negotiation Lessons from the Australian National Election

Amazingly, we can take a valuable negotiation lesson from our politicians this Election.   “What lesson could that be?” I hear you ask?

The take-out lesson could strengthen your ability to adapt to the unexpected, in your own negotiations, enormously.

Have you paid attention to how the press engage with the politicians they interview? The politicians tend to offer a very standard, party-line statement in response to the press’ questions.   The politicians’ answers show little evidence of deep, well-considered responses. The responses tend to reveal character with the substance as a 2-dimensional caricature.

The lesson comes in the next stage of the interview. It generally unfolds when the press lightly push the interviewee further. You may have heard the next step:

“Well, if that does not happen as you expect, what will this mean?”

The all too pat response by the politician, especially so this election, has been:

“That’s a hypothetical. I’m not going to deal with a hypothetical!”

And therein lies the valuable negotiation lesson.

Why on Earth wouldn’t a politician deal with a hypothetical?

Contemplating a hypothetical scenario offers people an opportunity to forecast and prepare for any unplanned event. It enables a person to be taken out of his or her own personal and insular experience, to other positions and perspectives. It enables the possibility for a critical shift to see others’ viewpoints and experiences. Most importantly, it provides an opportunity to see what possible paths will produce the optimum outcome.

Everyone needs to be prepared for the unexpected, particularly in a negotiation.

Hypotheticals are critical tools in helping us define a realistic Trading Range. They afford us the ability to create and re-design potential deals. They can help us determine the best outcome in any situation over which a negotiation is happening.

Handling hypotheticals effectively, demands a strong awareness of the cognitive biases we face. It demands broad thinking. It is a core competency of leadership. Sure, it is not easy.

Perhaps politicians don’t have the time to think in today’s complex world. That’s a pity. A little more thought processing and hypothetical challenge may be needed to help transform the world from the mess in which it appears to be.

If you want to create and influence your own world constructively, take the lesson from what the politicians refuse to do and invite hypotheticals, to ensure you prepare for all possible paths that lead to your best negotiated outcome.

Peter R Singer works with executives, business owner /partners, legal professionals and unions, negotiating best outcomes in business deadlocks. Having built a very successful, nationally based professional services group in the IT and HR industry, Peter pursued a Masters in Conflict Resolution. He now coaches  judges, barristers and solicitors in mediation, and has lectured at RMIT, ACU and Monash University.

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